learning to navigate the world, j-bear style

Month: November 2015

Clean Up, Aisle 5!

I am having some anger issues tonight. Something has me ready to spit nails so unlike those who hurt us this year, I am going to do something helpful. There are a lot of new service dog teams out there who  might need this, so here goes.

Your dog will lose their bladder or their bowels at some point when it is bad for them to do so. It happens to every team. It should be an isolated incident but it will most likely happen during the course of your time together. You likely will have a bag with you at all times anyway so here are some handy things to stow in it in case of emergency:

  • Diapers: Yes, you read that correctly. Grab a few diapers, preferably larger than small baby sizes, and have them on the go in your bag. You can clean up a wet mess in no time flat with one of these suckers! Open, throw down, wipe up. Fold the diaper up, throw away. Alternately if diapers aren’t easily had, feminine pads can do in a pinch. Diapers just absorb more!
  • A folded flat cereal box: This one was recommended by a trainer. They suggested having it ready for if you see dog about to squat for an accident, but that is not always possible. If you do have time to get it out before  your dog fully squats you slide it under their rear and let the accident happen there. This was never quite possible for us, accidents occurred too fast.
  • Clorox Wipes: You can usually buy these (or Wet Ones) in travel packages for throwing in your bag and having to wipe an area down quickly after you clean up the mess. It’s your responsibility as the handler to make sure the area is the same when you leave as when you arrive, these go a long way towards that goal!
  • Baggies: You can use large ziploc bags, old plastic shopping bags, or in a pinch dog waste bags to pack up the mess and dispose of it quickly.
  • Hand Sanitizer: Until you can get to soap and water, tide yourself over with trusty old hand sanitizer.
  • If for some reason you cannot clean up or you can only partially clean up the mess, direct staff to the area and offer apologies. They cannot clean up without knowing what’s happened and most are quite understanding. This is most likely to come up with your child is having a hard time with the situation or your dog is actively ill and you need them to get outdoors before the mess gets worse. Never just leave a mess. Your responsibilities as a handler dictate that you make sure that you never leave such a thing behind without at least trying to help.

The most courteous place to dispose of the offending items is obviously outside but sometimes circumstances make this tricky. I found finding a restroom made this easiest as they usually have a bin for sanitary waste. It also allowed a moment for hand washing! Usually, though… Your best bet is to drop it outdoors in the first available bin.

It is also important to remember to not scold your dog. It’s going to do exactly zero good for either of you to do so. Make it a non-thing as much as possible. You clean up, you carry on – preferably stepping outside at the very soonest moment to make sure that if anything else needs doing it can be done somewhere appropriate. It may be sad and shocking when accidents happen but it’s no more fun for them than it is for yourself. Do your best to remain calm, clean up and move on. Believe it or not, most stores have seen worse at some point in their existence.

Hopefully this can help some of my friends who have newly graduated or who are just about to meet their new family member. Good luck out there and remember accidents happen, it’s only when they happen regularly that you have to worry!


A Complicated Dance

This year, particularly the past several months, have been a complicated dance for J. He has taken steps backward that have at times overwhelmed us, then taken steps forward that are major victories what feels like moments later.

The pattern has been there his whole life. It is currently amplified by loss and recovery from said loss, but it is the existing pattern that is how J grows. The gains make that clear, but the steps backward are sometimes quite scary to witness.

When J was 2, his main method of play was not play as most would recognize it in children. He lined up his toys across the room, sometimes attempting to do so across the entire apartment. There were trains, cars, whatever was around just got lined up. You did not mess with the lines. Lines were love, lines were good… We left them alone, and we let him find his peace and order in them. It took him a lot of time, encouragement and work to learn that letting lines go was okay. He could return to them whenever he needed their comfort, but they did not have to exist all the time. He built his confidence and his skills and slowly, lines were no longer a major part of our lives.

The lines have returned. They creep in slowly, created with boxes or trains with an odd other toy or two thrown in. There is no moving these lines without his involvement. The fearful rigidity is not there but the anxiety is still palpable. Now, they involve elaborate scenes invented in his own mine integrating beloved cartoons and songs, but the main purpose is the same: comfort and predictability.

The first time I noticed their return I have to admit I was sad. It is easy to take something that seems a deeper sign of regression as bad news. The longer I watch and listen, allowing him to show me what he is doing the more things are falling into place. I have to understand the framework for the behavior. This isn’t a loss of hard-fought skills but a return to a safe place, when life was different and there was no heartache. This is like him bringing out Miss Kitty or any other stuffie… it is just behavior rather than items.

He uses these behaviors as a safe place; a sanctuary in which he can recover his peace. When that peace is felt, he is able to reach out and work on new skills, new adventures and new strengths. He has learned to read not one but two words, “go” and “stop”. When at home, he is stringing more and more words together with increasing confidence. We are able to sometimes even work on simple abstracts like what we feel occasionally which is huge for a little boy who is very, very concrete in his thinking.

It has always been firmly believed by all of us that he knows more than he imparts easily to most people. This all reinforces this belief. The full comprehension of what has happened may not be there, but he understands enough of how he feels about it to cope. He understands that this half of the year has been a lot of change and some of it quite upsetting and scary, yet he sought out a way to cope and created his own calm. It is not always a lasting peace and we have a lot still to work on to help him make it last, but it is a start.

He, with the help of the world that surrounds him, is laying a strong foundation on which to build up from in the year(s) to come. He is taking that which was taught to him in his earliest days and applying it. It’s a wonder to behold and I feel very, very lucky to be a part of his winding, crazy adventure as it unfolds. Yes, our hearts were sorely and unfairly broken but most of all his sweet, determined spirit remains intact.

I am so, so proud of my boy.

Clarification About Fundraising

I wanted to make a brief post to clarify a few things to those who have given donations over the past 6-9 months.

We have had a few small fundraisers that are as follows:

  • T-Shirts sold to help fund Brookie’s care
  • A simple fundraiser for Brookie’s care
  • A travel fundraiser that is now “Dog To Be’s Needs” fundraiser so that the funds will still be focused on supporting J’s new partner.

Monies are kept in a separate account when we have fundraised like this. We paid vet bills, paid to bring Brooklyn back to OH (god that hurt to type) and now have a modest amount tucked away that will cover year one of dog to be’s insurance.

So, the big question is, what happened to the $13,000 we initially fundraised to receive Brooklyn?

We agreed with 4 Paws that it was best for both sides if we parted ways. This was agreed to with the understanding that the fundamental focus of the agreement in this unique situation would be J receiving a partner. That partner will not come from 4 Paws but from another organization, so the amount whatever non-profit we work with requires for an autism service dog under $13,000 follow J-Bear into the new partnership. It will be an exact amount that is transferred from one organization to the other. We will never touch that money, which is in keeping with the spirit in which we fundraised. This means the donations for that long, large campaign still benefit the same cause which people donated to support: Service dogs for people with disabilities in J-Bear’s name, allowing him to receive a partner.

I believe in transparency. I believe in strong communication. I do not want anyone feeling stiffed, feeling misled… I want everyone to understand the situation clearly, hence this second post in one day. As always if you have any questions or concerns you can message me on Facebook or email me at galebird(at)gmail.com.

Thank you all again for your support and understanding.

Stepping Foward

We began a journey in April of 2013 that we thought would bring J-Bear a long-term partner and friend as he grew up on the autism spectrum. We met beautiful Brooklyn in October of 2014 and fell madly in love with her. She was in so many regards exactly what we needed. It’s hard not to say ALL regards because the one regard in which she was not, she could not help. She needed help to mend it.

And we lost her. We’ll never understand how or why but now, she is placed with others.

This week, we formally ended our relationship with 4 Paws for Ability. We are instead pursuing a partnership with a local agency that will allow us deeper involvement and nearby support as we find a new partner for J. I am hoping to have everything perfectly final soon so I can share even more details but suffice to say, we are incredibly excited. It has been agreed that the funding raised in J’s name for Brookie will follow him to allow him a new partner at a new organization.

The money fundraised for the trip we would have had to take to Ohio in 2016 is still set aside. It will still be used for J’s new partner exactly the way we noted in the fundraiser itself: All money not used for travel will cover vet bills, insurance and dog needs. We no longer need a lot to get us going and what has already been donated will cover a year of insurance for Dog to Be. Given the powerful lesson we learned about insuring our dog via Brooklyn’s health scares, we’re relieved that this will be easily covered.

The community we have met online via 4 Paws, Ride to Give and everyone else who has stopped by to read this blog and our page have been a surprising wealth of warm, caring support during some very painful, traumatic months for our family. We have been hurt in a way that cannot be seen yet pain etches so many of our current experiences. This past Tuesday, we got a glimpse of life after the pain. We are eager to reach it. We are hungry to begin anew. We are excited to share this journey with all of you.

Thank you, all of you, for your love, care and support of one sweet little boy and the golden girl he misses each day and each night. She will be in our hearts forever and will always have a door open to her if she needs it, no matter what. His new partner will not replace her. They will be a new friend, a new family member and a new journey.


Forever loved and forever in our hearts

Dear Santa: (A Doggy Wishlist)

Since J was so brave in seeing Santa this year, of his own accord and out of the clear sunny blue I might add, I figure Santa is the guy to direct this vaguely tongue-in-cheek letter to. Keep in mind that no family involved with 4 Paws for Ability gets to choose their dog. That’s never how it works. You give them as much license as possible to choose the match and as many details as possible to make the match work. 

Dear Santa,

I know I am writing to you early. It seems to be that kind of year, a year where we are jumping fast at that which can offer us even the slightest glimmer of hope. You’re a guy with eyes everywhere so surely you know all too well the pain J and our family have endured this year. J lost his best friend and trusted helper, something not even his mama can make all better for him. There’s no amount of kisses, hugs and “it’ll be okays” that will make this right…

So I am asking for a little magic.

Here is what we’re hoping for in a dog. I am hoping you can pull strings and find this perfect pup for him.

  • Easy going: We live in a busy town on a busy corner with lots of random happenings. Fire engines, police cars, random pedestrians, crazy trucks, random animals… You name it, we have it. It’s not a terrible place to live but it is definitely a shock to the system to a creature that may be more well suited to peace and quiet. His pup needs to roll with the random of our environment like the rest of us do, right down to not getting crazy if they spy the cat upstairs being her weird but sweet self.
  • Loving: Oh, the heart his pup should have. They should be doting enough to keep tabs on him yet wise enough to understand that sometimes the best action to take is to simply be. His girl knew this. If he was struggling but wasn’t ready to reach out for her  yet, she laid nearby. If he was starting to key up and the people around him hadn’t noticed, the signs were read and she knew where to be to help him undamage his calm. His partner should be nurturing without being overwhelming; loving and wise yet resilient enough to know that sometimes, all they need to do is just be there in his sphere without expectations.
  • A little playful/silly: This household is lost without laughter. A little tinge of mischief reminds us on the bad days exactly why we keep moving forward. A slightly silly, impish streak is enough to keep us on our toes and remind us that we have not one, but two silly monkeys in the house, something we miss so much right now. It keeps J delighted to see his antics engaged in and those are moments of great beauty to witness.
  • Strong: J is a growing boy, taller every day it feels like. He is so, so gentle and considerate of animals and younger children but he can be a stumbling clod, too. He is going to nudge tails or paws at some point and though it will be rare, he needs a partner who will understand (with our loving help!) that it was an oops and not a regular thing. He needs a strong partner that can handle tethering without being phased, especially since J loves it when his dog walks a little ahead of him and makes tension on the leash. I don’t care for when he does that either pup, so we’ll work on getting him to walk close together just as we did with Brookie.
  • Patient: J has a thing, you see. He loves noses, ears and tails. He is not, for anything, rough. It was his gentleness with his girl that blew us away given his clumsy nature with the adults in his world. He does love to touch noses, tails and ears the best though. This requires patience on the dog’s part and hopefully the ability to learn that this is a language J uses for comfort and companionship. There is no yanking, no pulling, no harm… Light touches and pets are his modus operandi.
  • A learned avoidance of stuffed animals: Oh, pup. This one will be hard but if you do not know not to touch the stuffies already we are going to work on this together. Stuffies are J’s friends. They mean an intense amount to him, each and every one. He relies on them to get him through the hard times while we await you and still will be protective of them when you get here, so we need to be sure we can succeed in this mission of Leave Stuffies Alone ™.
  • No golden retrievers: It doesn’t matter how much goldens have won over the adult’s hearts… J shuts down when faced with one now. They do not respond exactly like Brooklyn because they are not her. For his sake, please, do not bring another pure golden baby into our lives only to see the team fail because it could not even begin to forge a relationship.  Give him anything else, any other breed sturdy enough to do the job just please not another golden.

Santa, we just want our hearts to be full again. All of us. We don’t want any more days of only getting glimpses of J lighting up rooms with his smiles, charm and laughter. These are things that used to be the norm and not the exception. Please, he’s been so good and tried so hard, I hope you can help.

With great love,

J’s mama

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